Newsletter 02/2020 from Cotance, The European Leather Association

All you need to know about vegetable tanned leather

Vegetable tanned leather is currently finding favour among certain circles.
Vegetable tanned leather is a leather in its own right produced with tanning agents of certain barks, fruits or leaves which transform the hide or skin of an animal into a durable material with many attractive properties. New formulations have appeared, with those from grape seeds, olive tree leaves and rhubarb showing great promise.

This process makes it possible to obtain leathers that are firm, highly resistant to abrasion, technical and hypoallergenic. They also have antibacterial advantages and are breathable, with good absorption and evacuation of moisture. With its characteristic scent, warm shades that deepen over time and "ability to age well", vegetable tanned leather embodies the very essence of this material.

Vegetable tanned leather can be called "vegetable leather" for convenience and some have seized on this to court a new audience, shaped by the growing trend for veganism. However, the confusion between "vegetable leather" and "vegan leather" was quickly flagged up as unacceptable.

In fact, there is no such thing as "vegan leather" – it is more appropriate to talk about vegan materials, whether they are of petroleum, synthetic or vegetable origin.


Some European countries have decrees and regulations on the use of the term leather and/or the labelling of leather articles (France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Estonia). However, only Footwear enjoys uniform labelling legislation in the EU, but even this does not prevent misleading descriptions and deceptive promotion or marketing practices affecting the term leather.

However, there are not yet any specifications for other leather products, applicable at European level to protect leather from misleading oxymorons where the word leather is associated to pineapple, mushroom, etc.

Together with COTANCE, Europe’s leather industry organisations are working hard to lobby for protection for the term leather within the European Union.

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